The Life and Death of Demosthenes

Essay by zacrippleHigh School, 12th gradeA+, November 2006

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Demosthenes (384-320 BC) was one of the greatest orators in ancient Greece and the modern Plato and Socrates of his time. He was motivated to overcome a speaking handicap and learn to write logical and moving speeches. His skill in being able to deliver his speeches with conviction allowed him to become a political power in Athens. But his political work also led to his downfall. Demosthenes was born in Athens, Greece in 384 B.C. to a wealthy family. At the age of seven, his father died and he was put under the care of guardians. When he turned 20, Demosthenes realized that his large inheritance had been squandered by his guardians. He was now without a means a support. Angry at being cheated and put in a difficult position, Demosthenes sought to sue his guardians in the courts. During this time in democratic Athens, every citizen who wished to prosecute a lawsuit or to defend himself against accusation had to do the speaking himself in court.

Demosthenes character during these hardships illustrates his persistence and with that strength of character his passion to speak out against what he believes is immoral for his country. In fact in one particular duel with King Phillip he described that Demosthenes' eloquence had "such power and persistence that Philip himself is reported to have said that it was Demosthenes and not the Athenians with whom he was fighting."

Motivated to speak correctly

His strong desire to sue the people who had brought him to ruin led him to study legal rhetoric and train himself as a professional orator. However, the one and awkward problem that prevented him to begin was that Demosthenes had a speech defect. In particular he was inarticulate and could not pronounce words without stammering. According to Plutarch in...